Battling delays and water intrusion, Shell Island Resort reopens six months after Florence

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Nearly four months after its initial projected reopening, Shell Island Resort will check in visitors on Friday for the first time since Hurricane Florence, completing a transformation that the general manager said will improve the visitor experience to the resort on Wrightsville Beach’s north end.

But what Shell Island Resort General Manager Dara Newberry said she was most proud of was that she was able to keep most of the staff retained, whose work she credited for the 169-unit property’s turnaround.

“They made this happen,” Newberry said, noting that the resort’s board of directors supported her efforts to keep approximately 50 staff members on board during the six-month closure. “There was lots of cleanup to do and my staff did a wonderful job.”

There were 97 employees at the time of the storm, she said, and the resort’s staff can expand to as much as 150 during the peak travel season.

“We were fortunate to keep our staff employed,” she said.

With windows blown out all over the seaside facing side of the building, Shell Island Resort General Manager Dara Newberry said that the damage to the resort from water intrusion kept revealing itself, pushing back a hoped-for  mid-November reopening back more than three months to March 1. The resort has been closed since Sept. 11, 2018, just ahead of Hurricane Florence and the town’s mandatory evacuation deadline.

The resort’s restaurant has been completely refurbished, including new flooring on the entire first floor, a new deck and a new roof for the indoor pool. But not all repairs are finished, including the large windows that line the transparent corridors of the residential floors. And just one of its three elevators will be operational upon opening. But compared to what’s been accomplished so far, Newberry said those were minor details.

With extensive water damage, and backups on labor, repairing the resort was more time consuming than anticipated.

“Water intrusion is very sneaky, you don’t know where it lingers,” Newberry said. “As we inspected the damage, the scope just continued to grow. We just found some new damage yesterday.”

In addition to making repairs in the common areas, Shell Island Resort staff also checked each individually-owned unit and informed owners of the level of damage, before serving as something of a general contractor for the collective ownership of the resort and assigning preferred contractors for repairs.

So far, Newberry said bookings were strong, with two weddings scheduled for this weekend, bringing back to life one of the resort’s specialties.

“Bookings look great so far,” she said. “People are eager to get back and see it after the storm.”

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